Playing Catch-Up With ThinkIt

One of the problems I have every year with these prompts is that it takes me a day or two to think of an answer. That being said, I’m sure you will look at a few of these and think, That took her time to come up with? Jeez. Click!

So, without further adieu…

December 3 – If you could meet someone new in 2013, who would it be? Or would you rather spend more time with someone you already know?

No, I do a pretty good job of socializing as it is. I’m kind of making a career of it. Who would I like to meet in 2013? Anyone but my maker.

December 4 – What was the wisest decision you made this year?

They ask this one every year, and if I can think of anything, it’s stupid material stuff. I got a minivan that has made it easier to load the kids into the car and has cut down the squabble factor. I bought a new toaster oven that seems to do the trick. I started Practice What You Pinterest, but I can’t say that has turned out to be wise. Decisions? I didn’t really make any major ones this year, and I make too many little ones every day to single any out.

Oh, wait! I decided to avoid MSG. It’s made a world of difference with my migraines. That counts as wise, right?

December 5 – Interview 3 people about their favorite moments of the year. Share what you heard.

This was a fun one, and I actually got several good answers:

Michelle H. said that her best moment was her sister’s wedding and seeing her own daughters all dressed up for the event. She also enjoyed a moment the day before the wedding when she threatened to bitch-slap her sister.

Nadia had two as well. First was the day (May 23, 2012) when she had lost enough weight to fit back into her wedding gown. (Way to go, Nadia! I’ve kissed my gown goodnight until my daughter can wear it.) And October 31st, when she had officially lost 100 pounds.

That is one FINE looking man.

That is one FINE looking man. I bet he smells better than cinnamon.

Robin said the day after Election Day was the best moment for her. (Yes, many of us felt we could breathe easier that day…)

Meredeth gave some silly story about her daughter becoming potty trained, until she remembered that she had met George Clooney. Not to belittle A’s milestone, but duh, M. I would deal with diapers for a decade to have that guy press his shoulder into mine like that.

Michelle M. enjoyed seeing her daughter graduate high school to go study veterinary medicine.

Several friends said that their moment was when Notre Dame beat USC to go to the National Championship.

Three friends had babies this year, so those moments trumped all the others for them.

Kelly’s daughter underwent surgery that changed her life for the better.

Bill got pulled onstage during a concert to sing and dance with the band.

Kevin had a great one too. He said his moment was seeing his wife present their son with his high school diploma on a stage, where they shared an affectionate whisper. It was a message. “Tell Dad,” the graduate said, “the Phillies are tied in the tenth.”

For me, there were a million little moments. Edison’s excitement waiting in the audience at Asbury Lanes for the Potter Puppet Pals to begin; watching Craig, one of my fellow potter_puppet_pals1wizards “bonding” with two “gnomes” made out of potatoes, while sitting on a bench looking serenely at the lake; laughing with Manfrengensen until tears came out of our eyes; asking Clooney whether I tell him I love him enough and his response, “Uh, duh”; laughs with my lady friends who lunch/and/or/breakfast at Panera; hearing my son referred to as “a ringer” during  a Quidditch match; meeting our new niece and our new nephew; almost passing out while driving Manfrengensen to the hospital after his bike accident; holding my daughter’s hand; watching her try on the shoes I wore to my wedding; The Book of Mormon. I’m surrounded by magic every single day.

December 6 – How do you want get involved in your community this year?

I did a lot this year to get involved in my community. I still cook once a month for a local soup kitchen, and I started teaching Sunday school. I will continue to do those things in the coming year, and I will look for other opportunities, chiefly ones that involve aiding the poor in our area.

So there, all caught up…now let me get to the myriad other things I have on the docket today.

End of Year Musings Week 3

 Week 3: Experiences

Monday, Dec 12: Travel
Did you take a big trip this year? Or maybe even just a little one? Where did you go?

I took a few trips this year. First, Manfrengensen and I went to NYC in May, and we saw The Motherf**er in the Hat, starring Bobby Cannavale and Chris Rock. We also saw Midnight in Paris, and it was fun seeing a Woody Allen film in the city. And then we returned there in July with the kids when it was hot as Hades. In the Fall, we went to Orlando to visit Disney World and Universal. It was such a great trip, and we were sorry when it ended, even though the kids had Manfrengensen burning the candle at both ends.

Tuesday, Dec 13: Getting Lost
Share a time that you got lost this year. Did you learn anything?

The only time I can think of that we got lost this year was when Manfrengensen accidentally went toward the Magic Kingdom Park instead of the hotel. He had to turn the rented mini-van around and cross five lanes of traffic (and maybe even a bit of grassy divider), which he did in a hilarious goofy way that had us all laughing and white-knuckled at the same time. But hey, it was a rental, right?

Wednesday, Dec 14: Reconnecting
Where do you go to reconnect with you? Did you experience a place where you found solace?

Massage is always good for that. But really, I think I find solace in my husband and my family. That’s always the best place to be, even though sometimes the solace can be in short supply.In general, I’m pretty happy with myself these days. It’s taken a long time, but you know what? I am who I am, and that’s all I can be. I’ve come to accept that that’s a good thing.

Waiting After Traveling by Waleed Arshad

Thursday, Dec 15: Indulgence
What did you indulge in this year? Get yourself or someone something extra special? Do something you’ve never done before?

This year we bought two pieces of art by Iraqi artist Waleed Arshad. I saw his work in a local coffee shop and just fell in love with it. By the time I went back to the shop, the exhibit had changed and it took me a couple of months to track down Arshad. I actually bought two paintings, one from his Ancient Symbols collection (which was what I had seen at the coffee shop), and one from  an earlier exhibition. It’s not just a decoration in our living room. When I stop to look at it, it speaks to my heart. Just some amazing work. If you get a chance to visit his work when it’s showing in a gallery, or even if you can take a moment to explore his website, please check it out.

Friday, Dec 16: Helping Out

How did you get involved in your community this year?

I’ve been pretty involved this year. I chaired the Book Fair at The Princess’s school in the Fall, which was pretty crazy, and yet really fun. I also helped with the Christmas pageant at my church. Another thing that I do every month is cook for the local soup kitchen, which involves making a bunch of chicken and desserts. I really enjoy doing that. I like to cook, and it makes me feel good to help out every month.

Saturday, Dec 17: Choice
What was the wisest decision you made this year?

I’ll let you know when I make one.

Sunday, Dec 18: Technology
What technology changed your world this year? Pick a gadget, a website… how did it make a difference for you?

I got an iPhone this year. I was always against the smartphone revolution, though now, I have no idea why. The other day, my friend and I were having lunch, and she mentioned that her daughter wants a pink scooter for Christmas, but the salesman at Dick’s told her that they don’t make a pink scooter any more.

“That’s ridiculous,” I said. “Target has pink Razor scooters out the yin-yang.” And to prove it, all I had to do was punch “pink scooter” into the Target app on my phone. Sure enough, there was a pink Razor there that was in the same price range as the black concession she had purchased at Dick’s. What did we do before iPhones? We wondered. We settled for no pink scooter, that’s what.

Prompts courtesey of

End of Year Musings Week 2

WEEK 2: Place

Thursday, Dec 8: Inspiration Spaces
When you need inspiration, where do you go? What place really did it for you in 2011?

If I want inspiration, all I have to do is go to bed. I don’t know why, but my muse is most likely to come for me there.

Friday, Dec 9: Home
Why do you live where you do? What makes it home?

I always thought, growing up, that I would end up in another town. A bigger town, a more exciting town, and I did leave a couple of times, but I always came back. It’s home because I know the place. Everywhere else I have ever lived, I never really got to know the geography. No matter how many times I drove those streets, I always felt like a tourist.

My dad still lives here with my stepmother, and Manfrengensen’s parents are only 20 minutes away. Living so close to their grandparents, I think, is just a great thing for my kids, especially in a world where proximity to family is an increasingly rare treasure. So what makes it home is family.

Saturday, Dec 10: Work

Describe your work environment or desk. Did you make any changes to it this year? How do you work within that space?

My desk never stays clean. It is a study in entropy. And everyone else in the house seems to put their crap on my desk too. So let’s see…in adition to the computer and its mouse, there are the following items: In the far right corner is a stack of blank yellow pads, which I like to use to keep notes in. The one that I am currently using to write my ideas in, however, is in the kitchen at the moment. On top of that stack is an empty manilla envelope. No idea what it’s doing there, or how it got there. On top of that are a note from the post office; instructions from Edison’s doctor about how to care for this current bout of bronchitis; two 39-cent stamps from the Comic Book collection featuring Green Lantern and Plastic Man, still attached to a larger, ripped and worn paper platform, from which all the other super heroes have been plucked and sent to points beyond; an invitation to next Friday’s Festivus celebration, and two snowmen crafted by my daughter using a foam kit at Thanksgiving.

That’s just the right hand corner, mind you. There’s also a pencil cup filled with every kind of writing instrument, save my favorite, the Pentel Flair Felt Tip, which some people in this house like to steal from me; a pair of headphones from my Rosetta Stone Italian course; Nirvana’s Nevermind, in its CD case; a pad of blue post-it notes with some etchings regarding Manfrengensen’s work; a toy store receipt; a roll of tape; some notecards in a box; a Hello Kitty memo pad with notes about a car deal I was considering two months ago; an emory board; a gift receipt from Target; three coupons to Macy’s; A Harry Potter LEGO minifigure (WHAT’S HE DOING HERE?); an origami Ninja throwing star; a list of items Clooney’s art teacher is collecting for the local ASPCA; the directions for the Smart Slicer I bought before Thanksgiving; a desk lamp; two speakers; and a Christmas cactus that is so dry it’s basically begging me in its silent plant language for a merciful death.

And the that’s just the top of the desk. I could tell you about the shelves underneath, or the bookshelves surrounding me here, but that might get embarrassing.

Seriously, how do I get anything done in here?

Sunday, Dec 11: Gathering
When you want to gather with friends, where do you go and why?

Well, I have been gathering quite a bit at Panera this year. It seems like every once in a while, I get a place, where you are most likely to find me at certain hours of the day. These days it’s Panera.

Also, we have had quite a few parties and gatherings here at the house. We’ve only been here for a year or so, and it’s a really comfortable space to have people gather. The yard is large, with a swingset/playground, and the basement has lots of things for kids to do as well. It’s nice to bring people in to visit.

Prompts courtesy of

End of Year Musings Week 1

Every year, I try to do one of these daily wrap-up memes, though I have to admit that I have some trouble keeping up. I’m more of a brewer than a spewer, so let’s see if I can catch up here to the people working with

Week 1

Thursday, Dec 1: Favorite Photo
Have a snapshot that encapsulates your year? Or one that represents a great moment? Maybe it just looks dang cool. Show ‘n tell time — let’s see those pics!

We did a lot of family traveling this year, and just generally had a good time together. In this photo, I am at Universal Studios, Florida drinking Frozen Butterbeer in Hogsmeade Village. This is also the year that I discovered the pleasures of Harry Potter, both in a literary and cinematic sense, and I have Edison to thank for that. Drinking Butterbeer – that was a great moment.

Butterbeer may just be the most delicious thing I have ever imbibed. If you go there, think not of calories, but experience.

Friday, Dec 2: Favorite Music
You know SmallBox likes the rock. We can’t resist asking about your album of the year. Why did it grab you?

Hmm. Hate to say it, but my musical taste pretty much died with Kurt Cobain. This year, I listened to a lot of Green Day (the last two albums) and Weezer, but I still like my Elvis Costello and Aretha Franklin.

Saturday, Dec 3: Favorite Read
What did you read this year that inspired you? Share your favorite book or article.

Wow. That’s hard to say because I read some good books this year. I loved State of Wonder by Anne Patchett, Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann and The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides. As far as inspiration goes, I know that while I was listening to The Marriage Plot, I felt my own voice more strongly then. I don’t know if it was the rhythm of Eugenides’ prose or what, but it really pushed me in a positive way.

Sunday, Dec 4: Favorite Meal
Did you eat something this year that knocked your socks off? Maybe you tried something new that’s now a fave. Describe those tasty morsels.

Another good question that’s hard to answer. My favorite restaurant is in Margate, NJ, which is south of Atlantic City (in fact, if you look at your Monopoly board, and you see Marvin Gardens — that’s actually in Margate.) Anyway, my favorite restaurant is Tomatoes. They have a crab pasta that’s awesome. It’s more crab than pasta, just chunks and chunks of sauteed-in-garlic-and-olive-oil white crab meat. Good stuff.

Also, anything my father makes, is just to die for as well. He also makes a kind of crab pasta that’s really good, and sometimes he does the same thing with shrimp that makes me wish I were more like a cow — you know, like I had four stomachs

Lucy is a building shaped like an elephant built in 1881. She's right off the beach in Margate.

to put the stuff in. It’s heavenly. He will spend an unbelievable amount of time preparing meals for us as well. He preps his food so lovingly. In fact, I have seen him wash a piece of lettuce and then carefully dry it with a paper towel like it’s a newborn baby.

Anyway, this scampi he makes has little bits of carrot that he slices into small, paper-thin squares. He puts a little clam juice in there too. It’s just the best stuff on the planet.

Monday, Dec 5: Events
What event stood out for you this year? Where was it? Who was there? What did it look like?

I didn’t actually attend any notable events that I can think of right away. In terms of current events, we spent a lot of time in our house talking about natural disasters. Clooney was obsessed with news from the tsunami in Japan, and was thrilled (as well as freaked out) to be in the path of Hurricane Irene, which forced us to cut short our week at the beach.

Tuesday, Dec 6: Community
Where do you go where everyone knows your name?

Everywhere I go.

Wednesday, Dec 7: Neighborhood
Tell a neighborhood story. Did you meet someone new? Run into an old friend? Find a hidden spot you love?

I have made a few new friends in the neighborhood this year, which is cool. Clooney’s got a new bus stop and I really like the ladies who gather there to drop off/pick up their offspring. I have quite a few stories, I guess, and we have had some laughs there in all kinds of weather. I wrote about one of the days here: Random Notes.

Recently I made one of the ladies laugh, and that laughter still rings in my ears for some reason. I don’t know, maybe she didn’t expect me to say what I said, but her laugh just burst out of her in a really delightful way.

It started out with a compliment about her boots. They were really cool knee-high numbers, and she had calves that were just right for the fit. “Yeah,” I said, “I just don’t have the calves for knee-high boots. If I wore boots like that, my head would turn blue.”

I don’t know, that just tickled her funny bone for some reason. And it was a beautiful thing.


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One would think by now I’d recognize quickly the taste of my own foot

The other day a friend invited me to meet with her group for coffee. The conversation was animated, mostly mom stuff, comparing notes on housekeeping, parenting and shopping. One particularly interesting part was on the dangers of fabric softener, which I have since stopped using.

Anyway, I finished a side conversation with the lady on my left, and caught some of what the girl on the right was saying. I heard, “I don’t think I could live without bathroom wipes. They’ve changed my life.”

So, I interjected, “Yeah, I think without them, I’d need to install a bidet.”


She kind of paused, and nodded politely, but then turned to the woman to her right and clarified…They’d actually been talking about bathroom cleaner.


The moment reminded me of another about 15 years ago, when I was laughing over lunch with some girls I was working with then. One of the girls had recently gotten a UTI, and so we were talking about ways to avoid them, like going before and after and such, and we were laughing, getting a little bawdy in the lunch room there, and then one of the girls, who was obviously a bit more experienced than we were shared (with a wide smile on her face) that “you can’t be putting it one place and then the other, either.” And the whole room went silent. Sharing is always a good thing…to a certain point, at least.


On Another Note:

The decluttering continues. Have gotten rid of:

10 and 11) two trashbags full of toy garage parts that were never going back together to form actual toys

12) non-germ-free vaporizer

13) one pair of clip-on sunglasses that fit spectacles I haven’t worn for five years

14) stack of old papers from the back of the counter in the kitchen.

1,997 items to go.

Misty Watercolored Memories

Having moved recently, I came across a photo of myself with my friends in college. I’m not the kind of person who has chronicled her life much in photographs. There have been periods, certainly, that I have tried to capture, but for the most part, there are some gaps in documentation that I was in certain places at certain times. And even then, photos of myself are rare, like sightings of the Sasquatch. Oh, there I am. I guess it’s because I’m usually the one with the camera, at least, these days, when we mark certain moments in our family life, but also, I don’t really consider myself that photogenic.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that. I once worked for a newspaper, which decided to do a feature section on the people who worked there. A photo of me appeared in the section that Manfrengensen claimed made me look like “Mickey Rooney in Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” which most people would agree, is not a good thing. I just got my picture taken yesterday for my driver’s license. Now, in my defense, the DMV woman told me that I was not allowed to smile (not that smiling would have made a difference, because it’s what made me look like Mickey Rooney) because computer scans of faces can’t recognize those with smiles. (So, if you do commit any crimes, be sure to smile for the security camera if you want to foil law enforcement.) Anyway…I got the license. It looks like I just escaped from Alcatraz, and I am ready and willing to kick anyone’s ass.

Back to my photo find:

That’s me in the middle, somewhere between 18 and 19, with my college boyfriend on the left, and another friend on the right. Who was I then? I mean, I look back, and I wonder, what the hell was I thinking? And I’m not even talking about that pseudo-mullet I have going on. Nothing had happened to me yet…sure I had lost my mom, but all the great stuff that I’ve experienced, marriage, giving birth, travelling to Europe had yet to come. I’d never smelled a baby’s head or worked on a computer that showed anything but green digits. I’d never swum in the Carribean or walked the streets of Paris. Aside from my mother, at that point nothing too traumatizing had happened either. I had yet to be robbed at gunpoint; I had yet to lose a job. So I wonder, why did I think I knew it all then? And even with that, I was so lost; so willing to bend to belong. So open, and yet totally with blinders.

I wanted to work for Rolling Stone then. I loved music. Those guys in the basement, I met them because they were in a band, and I interviewed them for a story about a gig they were playing on campus. Next thing I knew, I was with them all the time, and even though we were only together a short period and I haven’t seen them in almost 20 years, they are beloved to me. Of course we all keep in touch on the Facebook, but before its inception, we didn’t hear from each other for years. And yet, as I said, I still miss a handful of people in Indiana with all my heart.

I think about that girl in the photo and it makes me so sad. I don’t even know why. Is it because I am not her anymore, or is it because she breaks my heart? Don’t you see what’s coming Egghead? Why are you in such a rush? It’s all going to be good.

And even though I was so lost, these people took me in. Even though I was in the wrong place at the time, they helped me become who I am, and so they guided me to where I needed to be.

Great Piece

Just wanted to share this story with you by Brian Hickey about his miraculous recovery from a hit and run accident. Brian is a friend of my sister, and we’ve all been following his story since the accident.

Comebacks: Dead Man Talking


Not Ivy League

Hey, I know it always seems like I’m complaining here, but what can I say? I am most often moved to write when I am irked about something, got some kind of stone in my shoe, and I think I am happier with the things I write when I am not.

If you took a survey of all the great writers and all their great writing, by and large I think you’d find most of it germinates from seeds of despair or disgruntlement.

Don’t be expecting Tolstoy or anything, but that brings me to today’s post:

Several years ago, Manfrengensen and I decided to renovate our yard. It was a huge expense, and despite what Manfrengensen will tell you, I fretted over every decision and dollar spent. In the end, it was one of the best things we ever did. I love the yard. Every day, I sit at the kitchen table eating my breakfast, looking at this:


Heaven knows I am a regretter of many decisions in this life, but renovating the yard is not one of them. I am not an avid gardener or any kind of gardening hobbyist. Every year I plant impatiens, joking that they are my signature flower, but really I plant them because of the low maintenance factor. I don’t have to dead-head them. I do some weed-pulling, but mostly I leave that to Matt, the Lawnmowerman.

But that doesn’t make me less invested in our yard. I love the yard. I love to see the kids out there, love to watch the growth of the shrubbery. I love the way the sun hits the whole thing for a brief period during the day and leaves it in the full shade of our house by three in the afternoon. In the summer that makes for good times under the sprinkler for the kids. I fret over the few brown spots in the grass, or worse that patch that looks like strawberries out near the front.

I love pretty much everything about our yard except this:

Weeds on the Fence

This is the vile weed that grows on my neighbor’s “fence.” I use the term “fence” loosely because this thing is not properly attached to the ground. It is really just two pre-fab fence pieces that he attached to the hairpin railing with plastic ties. For years the ties would break, and it would blow over any time a wind above 15 mph came along, so after the last hurricane blew through, he finally put those scrap wood blocks on my side of the railing, screwing through to the wooden fence on the other side. It’s ugly enough in the winter. But then the spring comes along and this weed starts creeping.

Every summer this weed drives me crazy. I have Matt trim it back as much as he can, but the thing grows like..well, a weed. And it’s very aggressive. Back by our garage, I had originally tried to cultivate a vinca ground cover, but this thing jumped off the fence, wrapped its roots around those and choked them off. I find the little leaves sprouting everywhere in my garden. I hate this thing.

This year, it’s way out of control, so I decided to say something to the neighbor. I finally caught up with him yesterday. I said, “What’s the deal with this weed on the fence?”

And he cocked his head and said in this kind of condescending tone, “You mean…the ivy?”

IVY??? Is he kidding me? Ivy is something you PURCHASE and plant and cultivate. It’s not something that spontaneously generates. Ivy doesn’t have little pink flowers. Ivy, at least the kind that looks nice, has shiny pentagonal leaves. This thing is a weed. It’s the kind of thing you see growing along the side of a highway.

So I said, “Yeah. Well whatever it is, it’s out of control.” I told him about the aggressive nature of the weed and how I don’t want it in my garden. He offered to trim it back, so we will see how that goes…

But seriously…Ivy? Who’s he kidding?

One of My Ghosts

I thought I saw Jim again the other day. I hadn’t seen him in a while, or I should say, his apparition, since he’s been dead for almost five years. It’s weird how I miss that guy. It’s not like I’d seen him five times in the decade before his death. But I did love him. And even now, more than twenty years after we were inseparable, I still laugh at things he said.

I don’t even know how we got to be friends. I met him by accident, after dialing his number, which differed by one digit from my friend Tim’s, in error. We had a laugh then, especially since his mom had answered and mistook my request for “Tim” as one for “Jim,”  and he said that I should look for him the next day. He was visiting my school in some kind of exchange program. I went to an all-girls school, and he went to the affiliated all-boys one.

After that, I guess we ran into each other through the theater exchange program. I worked the stage crew for a few shows at his school, and he was either onstage or in the audience. I didn’t like him at first. He was pushy. He would talk everyone into enacting whatever crazy idea he had in his head. He was infuriating. One time he talked me into taking him for a quick run to McDonalds. It was spring, and I had the top down on my brick-red 1969 Buick Skylark convertible. I can still see him laughing in the wind, this big six-foot-three future queen with his mouth full of Quarter Pounder with Cheese. He got shredded lettuce all over my white leather front seat. Oh, never again with that guy, I thought.

But he drew me in. I don’t know how or why. I mean why had he befriended me? He used to call me all the time. He brought me to parties with his basketball team. Was it because I had a car, or did I amuse him as much as he did me? He definitely made me laugh. And he would do crazy stuff. He’d get you to pull stunts with him. I won’t bore you with my crazy high school hi-jinx, but I will tell you that we had lots of fun.

Jim and I before my senior prom. He taught me to swing dance for the event.

Jim and I before my senior prom. He taught me to swing dance for the event. Good heavens, is that a decorative cane in his hand? I look at this picture, more than twenty-five years later, and the expression on Jim's face tells me all I need to know about the way he felt for me.

It wasn’t that he was interested in me. First of all, he was gay, though he didn’t really let that freak flag fly until college. He was always trying to hook me up with his basketball friends. But at those parties, was I his beard?

I had a job shelving books at the public library during my senior year of high school. His house was between mine and work, and I would often stop there on my way. More often than not, I wouldn’t want to leave, and so would be late for my shift. In February, I came down with a serious case of the Senior Blahs. I was down with no idea why. I stopped by his house on the way to work, and his mother let me into his room, where he was shirtless, still undecided about the day’s wardrobe. He tried so hard to snap me out of my funk.  I just kept saying that I “felt…blah.” Then he did the oddest thing. While we were talking, he popped some of his Valentine’s chocolate into his mouth, nonchalantly licking the melted brown goop out onto his hand and spreading it all over his face until all that was left were the whites of his eyes like a performer in a minstrel show. That alone succeeded in making me laugh, but he pushed it further –“Kiss me,” he mock-pleaded, pulling me toward his reaching lips with those All-American Basketball arms. We ended up in hysterical fits of laughter on the floor. Then I left, buoyed enough emotionally to take on the dull-as-tombs of the library.

We both went off to colleges. I visited him a few times at his, and we kept in touch, and then we didn’t. After a year or so, I dropped out, took a semester off, before re-enrolling at state college. I was stunned to see him standing in the bookstore my first day. Turned out he’d also dropped out of school, abandoned his basketball scholarship, and taken some time off before returning.

And again, we picked up, right where we’d left off! He found out I was living with these strangers in a house off campus. He, of course, was in a dorm. “Do you have a tub?” he asked. And the next afternoon, he was soaking in it. We were inseparable after that, back in our old routines, he my ringleader, and I (I would hope) his touchstone. The following fall, we moved into a townhouse together.

He was sick with a cold for a few days that first semester off-campus. I remember him calling his English Lit prof, Fleda Rumson to get his reading assignment for the next class. She rattled off a number of pages on which he could find the poems they’d be discussing, “225, 229, 237, 248, 256, etc.” After about five more page numbers in the list he stopped her. “Fleda, honey,” he quipped, “are these haiku?” Dr. Rumson was unfazed and continued with the litany of homework pages.

A Weekend Getaway, visiting friends in DC

Living together though, eventually undid us. We were both young, and though fabulous, we both had holes on the inside. We would go for periods when we wouldn’t really communicate, let the other’s little quirks (the ones you wouldn’t see unless you lived with a person) go unaddressed until the hard feelings would erupt with way too much drama.

After one fight, where he’d accused me of not dealing with things the way I hadn’t dealt with the death of my mother (and I HATED him for saying that – oh I thought that was a low-blow – but all these years later, I think, man, he had me pegged) I stormed out. He was upset and went to his daily AA meeting. He was the first one to share, and he told the whole story about how he and the girl he lived with had this knock-down-drag-out, and how she had left, slamming the door behind her for emphasis.

It turned out that Warren Zevon was playing a show in town that night, and Zevon, an AA member himself, had come to the same meeting. After Jim had unloaded his story, Zevon offered him words of advice. “Let her go,” he said. “Tomorrow something beautiful’ll be knocking on your door.”

Oh, we’d laughed at that.

We made up of course, talked things out, but the problems returned, and eventually things escalated. We couldn’t live together. It ruined our friendship, and things were never the same again. We loved each other. And we saw each other after he’d moved out. We were always glad to be in each other’s company, but we were never inseparable again.

He ended up traveling. Chasing the fabulous life that he deserved. I’d hear through channels that he was living in D.C., or New York, or London. At one point I heard that he was a member of Madonna’s entourage, and knowing him as I did, I believed it. Eventually he settled in San Francisco. And then, about five years ago, I heard he was sick. Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. So I tracked him down by phone right away. And it was like we’d only been out of touch for a week. We talked for hours. About high school, about living together, our lives since. We talked about his cancer and the things he’d been through with it, like the nightmare of  bone-marrow transplant.

One of the biggest laughs we had during that conversation was about the time his mother, who is a devout Catholic, had hosted a wandering statue of the Virgin Mary while we were in high school. She’d put it up in a shrine in their living room, so that when you entered the house, you walked right into it. It was like four feet tall, lit up from the huge windows behind it so that it looked ethereal. She surrounded it with flowers and candles. A parade of the devoted came by to worship at its feet before it moved on to the next location. At the time, we were young and stupid. We thought it was kind of goofy, kind of funny. We had no use for or experience with the strength of true devotion. Twenty years later, we may have been slightly wiser, but we still laughed.

And then, he sighed, really only half-joking, “Yeah…I could sure use a shrine like that now.”

He was planning to visit next month, before which he had to have one more set of tests done, to make sure the cancer was in remission. He couldn’t wait to see me, he said, and meet my kids. He’d call me in a month when he was in town.

I set out immediately, to make him a new shrine. I found a good statue of the Virgin Mary, albeit significantly smaller, on eBay and fashioned a shoebox diorama of his mother’s living room circa 1982, shipping it to his California address. The next month passed, and I didn’t hear from him. My father called one day in October, to ask if I’d seen Jim’s obituary in the paper. And that was how I heard the news. After the funeral, his parents told me about opening my package during one of Jim’s last few weeks, and how he had laughed and laughed from his sickbed.

I ran into Jim’s mom a few weeks ago. It was so good to see her. To talk to someone who understands how you can see the dead in public, only to get closer and realize the person’s not who you hoped they’d be. I wonder if Jim knew how much he would be missed. How much I would miss him. How even to today, I can’t see the word “haiku” without thinking of him and smiling.